American singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne’s new “Supernova” release is a whimsical, oft-times comforting collection of folk-rock tracks that’s far lighter and more accessible than his first four releases. It opens on the rich notes of “Lavender,” a retro, almost 60s-sounding track that bounces along, recounting distant childhood memories that are playfully engaging.
Adept on vocals, guitar, piano and harmonica, LaMontagne delights with the bright, pop-flavored title track / hit single, then hoofs it on “She’s the One,” a stellar rocker. Here, we love LaMontagne’s coarse vocals accented by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach’s distinctive lead guitar and the song’s booming chorus.
While most tracks are commendable and easy to like, the folksy, lovely dreamscape “No Other Way” is another standout. The music floats along with lead vocals vaguely reminiscent of Roy Orbison, and lyrics (sample: “Meet me in the twilight by the seaside / Meet me underneath the willow’s fall”) are suggestive of another era.
One of six children, Raymond “Ray” Charles Jack LaMontagne was born in New Hampshire and was motivated to start a music writing career after listening to Stephen Stills’ album “Manassas.” He recorded the album “Trouble” in 2004, selling it to ARCA Records in the USA and Echo Records in the UK. He performed at the Austin City Limits music festival in 2005, and at a New York City fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina that year as well.
He’s released five studio albums: Trouble; Till the Sun Turns Black; Gossip in the Grain; God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, and Supernova. He received two Grammy nominations in 2010 and won the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Another honorable mention from “Supernova”? That’d be “Ojai,” a rambling, reflective country-folk track about California’s beautiful but laid-back Ventura County town; you’ll love the P.C.H. (Pacific Coast Highway) reference and Russ Pahl’s (Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp) evocative pedal steel.
You might say the new album reserves the best for last, with “Smashing,” which boasts cool harmonies amidst surreal psychedelia, and the nostalgic “Drive-In Movies” with its profusion of big guitar sound.
And listen to “Smashing” below.
“Supernova” is currently sitting at number one this week on Billboard’s Top Rock category.